Category Archives: Artwork

Wreaths for the Love of Dogs

Janice and Vinnie, a pitbull from the pound. Vinnie had scars all over his body, but he just wants lovin' as you can see. He has a great home now where no one will ever hurt him again. Pitbulls are like all dogs---they want love and companionship.

Janice is my friend and animal-rescue partner in crime (we keep it as legal as allowable by our own laws). She specializes in pitbulls and is an expert dog trainer. We both landed in Bisbee around the same time and met while volunteering. We worked the pound together for a couple years until we couldn’t take it anymore and suffered simultaneous meltdowns. We’ve gone halves on a lot of heartbreak, but bliss too. Animal rescue is extremely emotional and there is an enormous amount of infighting. The volunteers can be as feral as the animals we’re trying to protect. But you have to be obsessive to get it done—passion equals progress. ( )

We made these wreaths to raise a little cash to help us offset some of our expenses. We started too late in the year though, and we’re busy, and excuses excuses—we didn’t plan this project out very well. We’ve vowed to start earlier next year, build up an inventory, and put some effort into marketing. We want to be able to ship the wreaths as well as sell them locally, make custom-themed wreaths, take orders, etc.

We combed thrift shops for inexpensive and/or unusual decorations and I asked my housecleaning customers if they maybe had a little something to donate. We also bought some ornaments new because it’s simply not possible to ignore the glittering holiday buffets offered in discount stores when your brain is exploding with ideas.  I may not celebrate Christmas but I loved making these wreaths.

As any crafter (or artist, or writer) knows, the need to physically construct your visualization becomes an obsession. Patterns, designs, and whorls of color gyrate in the space behind your eyes in a private kaleidoscopic spectacle. These handcrafted, lovingly-created wreaths are priced around $50. The wreaths are not made with live greens, so if you take care of them they should last forever. Please write me with questions, comments, or feedback. I’m not very good at marketing.

Angel wreath---sold

Yucca and star-thistle wreath (sold but I made two of them so I have another). We collected beautiful local dried flowers, pods, and seeds.

Chili peppers and cowboy boots wreath (sold)

Purple wreath

Vine wreath with red bow (sold)

Teddy bear wreath

Bird nests wreath

Stuffed animal wreath

Berry top wreath


Appleheads—Fanciful Fall Folk Art

In October I carve appleheads. Appleheads are a pleasant way to spend an autumn afternoon, and help release creative energy in a mischievous way. Once made they will reach their peak after a few weeks, then they will slowly collapse inwards. It takes a long time, but it will happen—unless you find a way to permanently preserve them, suggestions for which I would be grateful.

Start with the biggest apples you can find, because they shrink quite a bit.

Peel the apple. Poke a sharp stick or pencil down the center, then remove. Tie a string to the stick and push through. Tie the bottom of the string to a little piece of wood.

Soak the applehead in lemon juice and salt for a few minutes to help prevent it from turning brown. Using whatever tools you have around, carve features into the apples. I like x-acto knives, nutpicks, other small blades.

Day 6. After you've finished carving the apples and they are well-coated with lemon juice, hang up in a dry place. Each day the features you cut into the apple will change dramatically as the fruit becomes desiccated.

Day 10

Day 12. When you like the way the faces look, you can decorate them. I like to use doll hair, bits of fabric, beads, etc. You can buy dolls for a quarter at a thrift shop and cut the hair off.

This is the stage where I would like them to stop shrinking!

Have fun, and feel free to ask questions!

Bragging Rights

Today is the official release day of the New Oxford American Dictionary 3rd edition.  I can’t describe it better than OUP’s website:

As Oxford’s flagship American dictionary, the New Oxford American Dictionary sets the standard of excellence for lexicography in this country. With more than 350,000 words, phrases, and senses, hundreds of explanatory notes, and more than a thousand illustrations, this dictionary provides the most comprehensive and accurate coverage of American English available.

I am proud to have worked on the first edition, and this one, the third. I was art editor and editorial assistant for the first edition and contracted out 1200 illustrations by several amazing artists back in Connecticut—and many of the illustrations, including some new ones,  are mine. There’s no room in dictionary illustration for cheating or sentiment. They must be absolutely accurate. To draw dictionary illustrations an artist must seek out excellent references on the subject, and that’s often not easy. The pictures don’t fall out of our heads.

No one who loves and uses dictionaries would believe how much work goes into creating one—every tiny revision has consequences. Thousands of new words are assessed, others deleted. There are hundreds of editorial tasks to be done including a huge proofreading effort by a stable of some of the most experienced dictionary proofreaders in the US, including yours truly! I have never written about working on dictionaries before so it’s tumbling out! I think the main point about dictionary work is this: anything included must be true. Think of the thousands of subjects a dictionary covers—making sure every definition is the truth requires an enormous amount of research but it’s an obligation taken very seriously. And deadline time is as crazy as in any job with late nights, too much coffee, and blurry eyes for all involved.

This dictionary is also available as an online subscription.

Hand-painted Furniture by Debra Argosy

I went through an obsession with painted furniture, boxes, candlesticks, trinkets, clay pieces—whatever struck me as being paintable. I love the entire process—from scavenging some sad old piece of furniture and shoring it up, then making it smooth and applying the paint in unusual ways. Each piece takes quite a bit of time and I never found the right market for them. Here are some samples. These pieces are for sale–prices on request but make an offer…it’s more important to me that my children go to good homes than it is to hold out for a higher price.

small table with faux marble finish
closeup view
end table with drawer, faux marble finish
closeup view
green and beige crackle-finish coffee table
crackle table closeup
small black and white marble faux finish table
custom-painted vanity by Debra
closeup of painted vanity

Recent Dictionary Illustrations

I do freelance editorial work and illustrations for Oxford University Press (OUP), whom I was employed by back east through the  ’90s. Our US Dictionaries Department was closed after 9/11 and all employees but one were let go.  After an eight-year hiatus, I am fortunate to be working for them again.

OUP’s flagship American dictionary is the New Oxford American Dictionary, known as NOAD. I am proud to have contributed to the first edition (2001) as art editor, proofreader, and editorial assistant—now I’m excited to be a part of the third edition, available any day now.

They requested that the new illustrations represent the American southwest, a category that could be enlarged. I was more than happy to oblige. Above all else, dictionary illustrations must be accurate. For flexibility and forgiveness I use a .005 Micron drawing pen and an x-acto knife on coated stock. Here are a few samples…

Gambel’s quail by Debra Argosy © 2010 Oxford University Press
Greater roadrunner by Debra Argosy © 2010 Oxford University Press
Cholla cactus by Debra Argosy © 2010 Oxford University Press

Cactus wren on cholla branch by Debra Argosy © 2010 Oxford University Press

Stolen Painting

Connecticut Riverbank 24 x 36 © Debra Argosy

This painting was stolen from the Seamen’s Inne, in Mystic, Connecticut where it was on loan around 1993. The owners of the restaurant at the time were very uncooperative in helping me track it down—they wouldn’t even speak to me on the phone.

I didn’t even know it was missing. I had a buyer for it and when I called to get it back I learned it was gone. Never saw it again.

Exploited for Profit!

Back in the ’90s I was very serious about marketing my art. I sold the rights to several of my paintings to large companies who publish prints and posters. They were supposed to pay royalties, but that didn’t happen. The companies apparently went out of business and my prints were sold to other companies.  These two pictures below have been mass-produced and sold online—and I had nothing to do with it:–84711066

Sunflowers poster by Debra Argosy sold on Amazon and other dealers on Internet

Country Made by Debra Argosy sold on Internet

I hate the word “exploited,” it sounds so whiny—but that’s often what happens to artists. I mean it’s cool to see my prints being sold online, but hey! I’m here, a real person, and a poor one!

I have plenty of prints available, so if you order from me instead of these websites, you’ll get one personally autographed by the artist!